United States v. William Wine

Case No. 10-3403. William Wine was a financial manager who stole roughly $1,000,000 from his client, Harry Dean Stanton.  Subsequently, he was convicted of wire fraud.  After pleading guilty, he served two years imprisonment and three years of supervised release.  Not long after completing supervised release, Wine began wiring to his personal account money from four senior citizen clients for whom he managed retirement accounts.  As a result, his clients lost nearly all of their savings. One of the clients filed for bankruptcy, while another sold his personal possessions to prevent foreclosure on his home.

Following an indictment for his second charge of wire fraud in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1343, Wine pled guilty to three counts.  The court granted an upward variance at sentencing, increasing his guideline range from 37-46 months to 120 months.  Wine appealed his sentence as substantively unreasonable for two reasons.  First, Wine argued that the district court abused its discretion by applying an upward variance on criminal history when his past convictions were included in the calculation of his sentence under the guidelines range.  Second, Wine suggested that the district court focused too heavily on criminal history without evaluating the other factors.

The Sixth Circuit responded to Wine’s first argument by explaining that a district court may give additional consideration to circumstances already accounted for in the guidelines range when evaluating the 18 U.S.C. § 3553 factors.  The district court recognized that Wine’s prior sentence had been lenient and did not seem to have a deterrent effect.  Additionally, Wine seemed indifferent to the plight of his victims during the hearing.  The district court imposed a heightened sentence with the hope of producing some deterrent effect upon Wine.

Regarding the second argument, the Sixth Circuit found that the district court gave appropriate weight to each of the § 3553 factors.  Those factors include, among others, criminal history, the nature of the offense, and the deterrent effect of the sentence.  Recognizing that a sentence is substantively unreasonable if the court gives too much weight to any one factor, the court found that the district court, in Wine’s case, analyzed criminal history alongside other factors when imposing a more severe sentence.  Particularly troubling to the court was the plight of the victims in the case and the lack of deterrence that Wine’s previous sentence had on his conduct.  As a result, the court affirmed the sentence as substantively reasonable.

This case demonstrates the district court’s ability to employ an upward variance when it appears that a previous sentence failed to deter the defendant.